Jim Lewis knows how important it is to stay connected to family, even when you can’t be together in person.
His father was Ralph Lewis Sr., founder of the family-run Lewis Automotive Group and one of the first people to open a Toyota dealership in Kansas, way back in 1968. Before Ralph Lewis Sr. passed away in 2016, he retired to Minnesota. To help his dad stay connected to family, friends and employees back in Kansas, Jim Lewis got him an iPad.
“We used it to FaceTime. I’m pretty techy for an old guy,” jokes Jim Lewis, now 65.
“My dad loved the business and being with our employees,” he says. “So, I used the technology to put him up on the big TV during meetings. We’ve got nine stores. I’d have all the managers in, and we’d FaceTime him and I’d say, ‘Dad, we need a message today.’”
Jim Lewis says using FaceTime with his dad during meetings was “easier than heck.” Not only did it allow Ralph Lewis Sr. to connect with employees, but outside of work that same video conferencing technology made connections with kids and grandkids easy, too.
John Brent, a resident at the Manor of the Plains, gets a look at one of 10 Zoom for Home DTEN MEs donated to eight local facilities. The DTEN ME is an all-in-one video conferencing screen.
Last year, Jim Lewis’ daughter, Jamey Lewis Gonzales, was looking for a way to help her community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Gonzales is the dealer principal at Lewis Toyota of Dodge City, one of four Toyota dealerships the family owns across the state. Through the local Toyota Dealership Association, Gonzales had access to funding for grassroots programming. She wanted to spend it on something that would help some of Dodge City’s most vulnerable citizens.
As Gonzales brainstormed ideas with her dad, he recalled how he used to FaceTime with Ralph Lewis Sr. and suggested they try to bring the same experience to elderly people in Dodge City separated from family due to pandemic restrictions.
“The team loved the idea and showed me how we could do it in a portable way,” Jim Lewis says. “So, we brought the IT guy in and asked him to help us source mobile Zoom room options. The first thing I said to him was, ‘Make it quality. Make it like Toyota. I want a quality unit.’”
Making a Difference
Jamey Lewis Gonzales (left) and her father, Jim Lewis, stand outside the Manor of Plains, a not-for-profit senior living community in Dodge City, Kansas.
Gonzales and her father also wanted to get the mobile “Zoom Rooms” into long-term care facilities quickly so that families could connect with their parents and grandparents over the holidays. And that’s why, in early December, Lewis Toyota of Dodge City donated 10 Zoom for Home DTEN MEs to eight local facilities. The high-quality touch-screen devices are designed specifically for Zoom calls and feature large screens for easy viewing. Each one is mounted onto a rolling cart that can be wheeled into residents’ individual rooms.
Last Christmas Eve, KSN, Dodge City’s local NBC affiliate, sent a reporter to one of the long-term care facilities that received a DTEN ME to see how they were being used. One woman, Sheila Eichman, told the news crew that the device made a huge difference for her family. She hadn’t been able to see her dad in over nine months and was eager to brighten his holiday.
“It just, it means so much,” she told KSN. “And actually now, with the new tablet, we could do a family call so all of us could be on the phone call, and that would just make his day.”
Jim Lewis and his daughter got so much positive feedback from Dodge City’s long-term care facilities and residents that they are planning to expand the program to their other Toyota dealerships across Kansas, including in Topeka, where Ralph Lewis Sr. started the family business so long ago.
For the Lewis family, it’s all about giving back and passing on Ralph Lewis Sr.’s legacy of joyful giving.
“It’s really simple,” Jim Lewis says. “We love Toyota. The way Toyota treats us is the way we want to treat our people.”